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What Happens When Your Catalytic Converter Goes Bad?

What Happens When Your Catalytic Converter Goes Bad?

The catalytic converter acts as the final defense from toxic emission output from your car, to the air we all breathe. It is important to understand its life expectancy, what occurs when your converter goes bad and how to prolong its life.

How Long Does A Catalytic Converter last?

Typically the average OEM catalytic converter can last up to ten years. The reason for this is because of the warranty standards that must be met. These warranty standards are designed to match emission output control regulations set by the state. Due to rules like this, having a catalytic converter is mandatory on today’s vehicles and the only reason you should get rid of a catalytic converter is if it goes bad or you are selling it as recyclable scrap metal. You legally can not repurpose a used catalytic converter, so buying one used, unless you are a recycler, is not an option. If your converter does need to be replaced you can purchase aftermarket catalytic converters that usually have a shorter life span than the OEMs because they do not need to meet the same warranty standards. Aftermarket companies must ensure that the converter has the sufficient amount of precious metals inside in order to filter out toxic emissions created from the vehicle’s inner-workings. However, since they are not required to last, the loading of the precious metals is far less than an OEM assuming you will potentially need to replace the aftermarket converter before it does not let you pass smog.

How To Tell Your Catalytic Converter Is Going Bad

Since the catalytic converter is an essential component to your vehicle and works in line with other key components, you should be able to tell if something is not right as you drive.

One indication your catalytic converter is going bad would be the limited power your vehicle is outputting. You may feel the vehicle has decreased acceleration. Do you find yourself needing to push the gas pedal closer to the floor? Well it may be due to the catalytic converter going bad. Another key indicator of a failing converter is the uncommon gases your vehicle produces. For example, if you see dark smoke coming out the exhaust. 

Ever smell rotten eggs as you drive your vehicle? Well this could be a sign your converter is going bad due to the sulfur that is being outputted through the exhaust. 

Finally, if you ever feel the floor of your vehicle is getting hot as you drive, this could be another indicator that your catalytic converter is going bad and needs to be replaced. All of these symptoms could be a result of the catalytic converter being contaminated, clogged, overheated or physically damaged.

Potential Threats To Your Converter

Since your catalytic converter operates in close quarters with other components in your vehicle, there is a chance it could become contaminated by engine fluids. An example of this could be your engine coolant may have leaked into the combustion system. In turn, this leak may cause a clog between the catalytic converter and the exhaust gasses that must pass through. If the clog occurs, the engine cannot receive the optimal oxygen input which makes it run less powerful or not at all. 

The catalytic converter deals with extremely hot temperatures passing through which activates the precious metals and activates the filtration of toxic pollutants. Since it is dealing with hot temperatures there is a risk factor that the catalytic converter could overheat due to other components in the vehicle not performing. A faulty oxygen sensor, misfiring spark plug, or leakage in the exhaust valve could send a large amount of unburned gas through to the converter ultimately resulting in the overheating.   

Road conditions could also damage the catalytic converter since a lot of vehicles have them underneath the vehicle completely exposed. Scrapping a speed bump too quickly could result in a damaged catalytic converter. 

How To Prolong The Life Of Your Catalytic Converter

Every vehicle has a recommended maintenance schedule that may be able to delay the inevitable failure of your catalytic converter. A well maintained OEM converter may last you up to 10 years or more. Making sure that your combustion systems and exhaust is exceptional, you can minimize the risk of having your catalytic converter go bad sooner. 

Taking measures to avoid these potential threats your catalytic converter may face is a good place to start. Of course If your vehicle is experiencing any of these problems it could be something else and it is better to get it checked as soon as possible.



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